Fireworks, done well, are a treat for all the family. Fireworks done badly, as it will be done tonight, is a disappointment at best, a danger always, terrifying for pets and an annoyance to neighbours. Why do we continue with Guy Fawkes?
For the children, most people would say. Little children get a thrill when Dad lights their sparklers and lets off some rockets in the backyard. Remembering our own innocent pleasure we wonder whether we have the right as jaded adults to deny the experience to the next generation of little ones.
But the truth is, the kids will get far more enjoyment from a real fireworks display, lying on the ground with parents and a crowd around, watching explosions of colour overhead. The sequences are far longer and the variety so much better than anything that can comes in a bag from a store at this time of year.
So why do we persist with the backyard variety? Perhaps because the occasion hardly warrants a public effort. Guy Fawkes marks a minor act of attempted terrorism long ago and far away. Nobody knows much about it and nobody cares. It's an artefact of English heritage that would be no loss. It comes soon after Halloween which New Zealand children now mark in American style and have much more fun than a few firecrackers can give them.
How much better, for them and everyone who enjoys fireworks, if it marked an event with meaning in New Zealand. Matariki possibly, which occurs in winter when darkness comes early. Otherwise, let's save it for New Year.